Riding on the coattails of last season’s massively controversial cliffhanger, AMC’s The Walking Dead has returned for yet another year of action-packed, walker-killing fun. Though the seventh season of the show is only two episodes underway, it has shown repentance for mistakes of the past, and perhaps even a little bit of wisdom on how to fix them. Though certain aspects of AMC’s brainchild are not without flaws, The Walking Dead seems to be on the road to maturing into the program that it was always meant to be.
Based purely on fan reaction to the end of The Walking Dead’s sixth season, AMC had a high hurdle to pass in order to re-prove its commitment to quality entertainment. As of Nov. 1, “Last Day on Earth” (the season-six finale) stands as the lowest-rated episode of all time on IMDb, and the second-lowest on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer. The finale concluded—big spoilers ahead—with Negan (the show’s newest antagonist) bashing in the skull of a beloved main character with his barbed-wire-covered baseball bat. But who received the fatal grand slam? The Walking Dead cut to black just before revealing the victim, subjecting loyal fans to seven months of waiting to find out which of their beloved characters was gone forever.
It’s easy to see just why the show experienced the level of backlash that it did. A well-known television program, especially one that regularly receives high ratings, resorting to a cheap publicity tactic is disappointing on two levels. Not only is it poor writing—it demonstrates a lack of credit and respect given to its viewership. This is precisely why the seventh season premiere was such a do-or-die scenario. In this moment, AMC had the opportunity to prove that it was still at the helm of this money machine, guiding it carefully into artistic prosperity. Thankfully, the company still seems to have a grip on reality.
Season seven opened directly where it left off, and though it dangled the victim’s identity in front of audiences for a few minutes, The Walking Dead (finally) very artfully revealed—again, spoilers ahead—that both Glenn Rhee and Sgt. Abraham Ford faced down the barbed-wire bat and lost. To the show’s credit, it gave these two long-running characters a beautiful sendoff. The cinematography this season, particularly in “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be,” has been beyond stellar. The usage of makeup and fake blood made the deaths of the two fan favorites disturbingly realistic. The show’s choice of music only exacerbated the sickening reality of what it portrayed—though it may have been excruciatingly gruesome to watch, The Walking Dead still knows how to pull at heartstrings with poise and precision.
It would be easy to keep questioning AMC for its poor writing last season. Many fans still are, truthfully. And there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the seven-month wait was unbearably long. But did the cliffhanger pay off in the end? Absolutely. The order of events and buildup of emotion, though it could have been framed better since day one, was still a massive punch to the gut of every faithful fan—very much in a good way.
The future of The Walking Dead seems to be looking bright. The show has never really suffered from a technical standpoint, and with the introduction of King Ezekiel’s pet tiger, the show’s CGI artists have once again proved their talent. A sense of terror pervades The Walking Dead—more than anything else, the show has mastered its tone to a T. The writing sometimes remains lax, but even this portion of the program has advanced with leaps and bounds lately. AMC has in its hands a potentially long-running gem of a TV show—it only needs not squander it with cheap jump-the-sharks and poor publicity stunts.
The show’s renewal for an eighth season was recently announced, which allows AMC to continue doubling down on the work that they have been producing for seven years. Whether fans like it or not, it seems that The Walking Dead is here to stay. It remains to be seen if this is for better or for worse, but with competent management and direction (and a little fan devotion), the wise guess is for better.
Featured Image By AMC Studios